I live in Canada… and hockey here is huge. It’s not uncommon for a 5 year old to be a member of a hockey team. Parents willingly drag themselves out of bed at 4:00 am on a cold November morning to make an early ice time. And sales of hockey gear must make our local economy go ’round.
So, with the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the verge of wrapping up, it seems like a good time to explore why an un-weighted 61 key keyboard with no stand from Future Shop is like sending your child to the hockey arena wearing figure skates.
To be fair, they both “do the job”; one makes piano-like sounds when you push the keys… and one gets your child from A to B in a skating fashion… but neither will help your child learn the appropriate technique or skills, and neither will result in a child who is proficient at their chosen activity.
It makes no sense to spend hundreds of dollars on hockey equipment and skating lessons and then not provide proper skates. Likewise, it makes no sense to invest in piano lessons without providing a decent home instrument.
Educating Piano Parents on Home Piano Choices
While some teachers refuse students who do not own a good quality acoustic piano, other piano teachers with different circumstances, economic areas, or varying philosophical views do accept students with keyboards or digital pianos.
Regardless of your personal decision as a piano teacher, here are 5 tips to help your piano parents choose the best instrument within their means.
1. Partner with a piano store
Approach your local music or piano store to see if they would be willing to partner with you in a “piano education” relationship. Your new (or upgrading) piano students can make an appointment with a knowledgeable staff member at the store who can personally show them each of their options. Make sure this staff member knows what you as the teacher will and will not accept and why. See if you can negotiate a discount on behalf of your families in exchange for the business you will provide (or even a monthly payment plan option). For parents who do not play piano themselves it will be much clearer to feel, hear and see the difference in instruments vs. having someone simply tell them “an un-weighted keyboard is no good”. It makes more of an impact when they can see and hear why this is so.
2. Keep your expert eyes online
I keep regular tabs on my local online classified website. The moment I see what I deem to be a “good deal” I post the link on my studio Facebook page or email the link to students who will soon be starting or who need to upgrade. Parents who are making this big of a purchase like to have some guidance, as shopping for a piano can seem overwhelming to anyone who has never played one before. Purchasing used is a great option for many families and can often make instruments much more accessible. Purchasing used without guidance can sometimes be a disaster (remind me to tell you the wood bugs in the piano story…)
3. Relate in a relate-able way
Just as I explain home piano choices to my piano parents using a “hockey on figure skates” analogy, find an analogy that will work for your part of the world. Educating parents on the importance of a home piano often just comes down to having them understand, in a simple way, that the home piano is the second most important part of piano lessons (the first being yours truly!). A simple and relevant analogy can often turn on that light bulb of “Oh, I get it!” and result in parents really stepping up to provide their children with good quality “equipment”.
4. Consider offering a short-term keyboard use option
If keyboards have always made you shudder, consider letting beginning piano students start out on a less-than-ideal instrument for an agreed upon amount of time (say, 6 months). During this time your student can get a feel for the piano, for you, and for piano lessons in general. If your student is hooked and wants to continue, then your piano family can upgrade to an appropriate instrument at that time.
Parents are often much more comfortable making a large purchase when they have all of the facts… and one of the questions they want the answer to is “Will she use it?!” By offering this short-term use option you make it clear that keyboards are not a great long-term option but you also give your clients with young children a fair chance to make the right choice.
Good Education = Good Decisions
If piano parents are properly informed as to why an appropriate home piano is so important… and if they can see their child’s true interest in lessons (compliments of your uber-awesome teaching skills) they are likely to invest in a piano that will allow their child to get the most out of their time in lessons. Instead of offering a rigid set of rules or “no’s” (or not offering any advice at all) instead consider giving your piano parents a good “Home Piano Education”; giving them the knowledge they need to make an informed choice.
One of the main reasons I tout a good home piano is the desire I have for my piano students to be able to play with expression. True enjoyment on the piano comes from getting something “back” from your instrument. However, if my piano students aren’t playing music they enjoy… then expressive playing doesn’t happen either! When creating The Adventures of Fearless Fortissimo it was my goal to compose music that would inspire my boy students to explore expressive playing… and it works!